Baldy working hard to keep skiers in bounds — and out of trouble

Baldy Mountain has a message for its clients who grew up learning how to snowboard on an XBox.

If you ski out of bounds on its course, there could be consequences — perhaps even grave consequences.

The popular South Okanagan ski attraction, which opened in December after several years of down-time, is dealing with a spate of “rope-jumpers” leaving the groomed property in search of virgin snow elsewhere on the mountain.

“This is not to be confused with the huge increase in side- and back-country skiing,” explained Joey O’Brien, Managing Director at Baldy Mountain Resort. “No, the guests I am talking about are the ones who are not prepared for anything, and either on a whim or being led by others head outside the rope.

“These people at some point suddenly realize they are in trouble and don’t have the gear, provisions and/or skills to find their way to safety.”

In the last week alone, Baldy staff — one night reportedly with Oliver-Osoyoos Search and Rescue along to provide assistance — were required to go in search of missing skiers and snowboarders at least seven times in four days.

The practice is costing the resort thousands of dollars.

“We are working harder to protect these people from themselves,” said Mr. O’Brien. “We have hardened up the exteriors of our resorts; we have media campaigns like the “don’t duck a rope” that I started this week.

“We’re seeking to connect with these guests in a meaningful way that will actually result in a moment of reflection when they see a fence and fresh powder on the other side.”

The trouble is, he added, that it appears many of his twenty-something clients grew up in an XBox culture and seem to think they can just “reset” if they get into trouble.

In the 1990’s, we began to observe one of the by-products the habits of the youth: When we asked a school group if they could ski or snowboard we would get a percentage of hands raised. When we then refined the question and asked if they actually did this on snow, the number of hands decreased.

“They really thought if they could hit A and B and Jump on their game boy they could transfer the skills. These naive kids are now twenty-somethings and are our guests.”

Baldy doesn’t have a monopoly on the out-of-bounds problem.

“The issue is almost all resorts in North America have increased incidents of guests and others skiing out of bounds and getting lost and needing to be rescued,” said Mr. O’Brien.

“We’re proud of the ruggedness of the BC mountains. However many of the guests we rescue have virtually no experience in this area. If you asked them if they knew how to build a quinsy to survive the night, they would ask ”what’s a quinsy?”

 

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